THE LONELY BOOER 2
“Now, the booers have moved on to the blogosphere, bragging
that their booing is a badge of honor.”---L.A. Times music
critic Mark Swed, “Should Audiences Lay Off The Boos?” Apr. 25,
(May 1, 2009)
Mark Swed has booed back. Yes, the L.A.
Times music critic has aimed a boo-broadside against your
heroic, lowly, not-so-boo-colic Internet columnist, in
the waning medium of print, year of our Lord 2009.
No, I am not named in his "Culture
Monster" column of Apr. 25. I am obliquely referred to as a
member of the “blogosphere,” which really should be the name of
a Dr. Who villain, and I am lumped in with those 'net nuts who
spout “bile in the name of free expression.” (It’s on my
business card.) Gawd forbid that Mr. Swed, an old
colleague of mine from the L.A. Herald-Examiner, “empower” me by
printing my name. Never mind that I criticized him in this
website, by name. Never mind that the Times, days earlier,
linked the term, “Lonely Booer” to. . .The Rip Post.
Not since the U.S. Postal Service named Santa Claus in
“Miracle on 34th Street” has there been such irrefutable proof
of an identity!
Mr. Swed, you are so coy.
First, a couple of clarifications. I have not “moved
on” to the “blogosophere,” as Swed said. I have been blogged
down for the past twelve years, writing an on-line column
(excuse me while I rub some Ben-Gay on my lower back.) Second,
Swed writes as if my “Lonely
Booer” column happened in a vacuum---as if I went out of my
way to crow about how clever I was by vocally disapproving the
Los Angeles Opera. Tch tch. Take responsibility for your
actions, Mark. I wrote the column in response to your article in
which you reported a "lonely
booer." As you know.
But Mr. Swed, a man who has attended and written
about thousands of concerts, objected to my booing so much
that he wrote two pieces about it. Two! First, before he
knew the booer was moi, came his review in which he went
out of his way to note a solitary boo in the balcony. One guy,
one naysayer amid thousands, and your keen-eared critic reported
This man would have heard a dyspeptic father grumbling
amid the 17,256 shrieking girls at the Beatles’ Hollywood Bowl
concert in 1964.
I mean, music critics have sharp hearing, but bats
might have missed me me in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion that
night (and by the way, there are real bats roosting there.)
Another pal of mine seated in the orchestra section not far from
Swed did not hear a single unkind howled vowel.
But then, Swed’s ears are sort of, um, batty. This man
made a career out of denouncing the acoustics of the
Pavilion---never mind millions of uncomplaining patrons over 30
years---and by campaigning relentlessly for the construction of
Disney Hall. In one of many nearly ejaculatory fits over the
(superb) acoustics in Disney, he recently rhapsodized that the
very ambience of the hall might one day be re-created for
recordings and performances, much as period instrumentalists do
for classics, cough. And once---this really happened---he
euphorically declared that Disney Hall might. . ."change the
Wow. So maybe Disney Hall is responsible for the
current rise of the Taliban. Or the demise of GM. Huh.
But back to booing. The second Swed broadside---
“the Internet is inundated with bile in the name of free
expression.”---reveals his real agenda. In the guise of standing
for civility, Swed is actually seeking to stifle free
expression. The crux of the problem here is not booing, as he
would have you believe. It is not even his contention that booing is
evidence of “bile,” or his embarrassingly laughable assertion
later in the article that it “stops discussion.” (What are we
doing here?) The problem is tyranny. Swed’s tyranny. The tyranny
of political correctness. Booing is. . .incorrect.
is very deliberately doing is making sinister implications about
simple disapproval. My booing, and my writing about it on-line,
he implies, are part of Internet “bile in the name of free
expression.” Get it? Thus he taints by implicitly linking me to
the web ranters who make Rush Limbaugh look restrained. Neat trick. Discredit by association,
rather than thoughtfully engage. (Who’s stopping discussion,
Mark?) There is also an undercurrent of print journalism snobbery
here, and the war between old and new media. Seeing his
newspaper fall on hard times, so to speak, has evidently soured Swed on the Internet. Then this quote:
“Art isn’t easy, but booing is. A mind-closing
activity, it tends to be the expression of rigidity in the face
I see. So booing is
mind-closing. . .rigid. . .stops discussion. Right. Only a closet authoritarian
(extrapolate as far as you like) would boo, and seek to stop
discussion. It’s a short hop from there to goose-stepping.
Insidious, isn’t he?
Booing is a slippery slope to. . .fascism!
Not incidentally, booing is anything but "easy." It
takes a bit of nerve to shout disapproval when you are
surrounded by hands slapping together, whistles, and the big
It is socially alienating. But never mind, we're used to
social alienation at the Rip Post.
politically correct pose is part of sweeping newthink that
came to inculcate
mainstream media and popular culture, nowhere more so than the L.A. Times
in the ‘90’s. This was, after all, the newspaper that published
a style guide banning---yes, banning---such innocuous,
hoary terms as “Dutch uncle,” (for fear of offending Dutch
uncles?) I recall once writing a column for
the Times during that period in which I mentioned that Japanese
tourists were taking pictures of the bust of James Dean at the
Griffith Observatory. I was told by a Times editor that she was
taking out the word, “Japanese,” because “it’s a stereotype.” I
told her that may be true, but they were in fact Japanese
tourists, and I was just reporting detail. This didn’t cut it
with the---let’s borrow Swed’s terms in describing booing---rigid,
unthinking, mind-closing mentality of this PC-policewoman
became angry, sneering, “I suppose you recognize the sound of
Japanese!” I said, well, yes, of course I did, domo arigato---I’ve grown up in
L.A.. For this, the woman refused to edit any more of my
articles, and withheld a paycheck from me for weeks. True story.
From sitcoms to NPR, SNL to ACLU, political
correctness has done more to curtail free speech in this country
than it has to fulfill its alleged aim: to increase civility and
decrease divisiveness. By setting up elaborate rules about what
can and cannot be said for fear of offending this-or-that group,
the architects of PC fostered an atmosphere even more divisive,
with generations growing up with chips on their shoulders,
waiting for little PC no-no landmines to crop up in
conversation. God forbid that a white person ever say, for
example, “you people,” in reference to an ethnic group, while
whites are regularly stereotyped and mocked on film and
television. And such tried-and-true attitudes as irony, sarcasm,
being caustic or biting or satirical---were all lumped together
as "mean-spirited." Ask the great David Letterman, who had the term
practically stamped on his forehead.
Swed's tone is in PC lock-step. Think I exaggerate?
Think I am being paranoid? Imagine: one guy boos, and suddenly a
powerful critic is pronouncing it
an act just short of evil? Ahem.
Something’s very wrong here, people.
There is nothing wrong with booing, or voicing
disapproval, of artists, performers, baseball players,
movies, mimes. Nothing. Frankly, I think all professional sports
figures should be booed every night, just for their shameless
greed. Madonna should be booed on sight, anywhere, for being a
no-talent, amoral, lowest-common-denominator exploitation beast.
All “American Idol” winners should be booed, pretty much, for
passing off soulless histrionics as singing, and to buffer their
narcissism. Mayor “Little Anthony” Villaraigosa should be booed
for, well, being a jerk. And just once I would like to hear
someone boo Oprah when she agonizingly “confesses” to eating
twenty chocolate cakes in the middle of the night. Yes, booing
can be unwarranted, or misplaced, or cruel, but there is
nothing---nothing---inherently wrong with it. It is a right in
free society. For that matter, Marky Boy, bile---from the
Internet or elsewhere---is a right in a free society.
But bile is in the gut of the bilious, and trust me,
there is more in Swed’s couched L.A. Times language than in my
direct on-line statements. He is seriously angry, and using his
bull(y) pulpit in an effort to malign dissent---in the guise of
defending deference. Repeat: he is pushing to stop honest,
thoughtful protest, portraying it as pigeyed rage. Consider that
haughty assertion that the boo is “an expression of rigidity in
the face of invention.” As if invention, merely because it is
inventive, should be immune to disapproval! As if all booing is
unthinking! By his standards, we should applaud “Piss Christ.”
Remember that “work of art?” In which urine was poured into a
tray containing a depiction of Jesus Christ? That was
“invention,” too. And by Swed’s standards, those who booed last
year’s Bayreuth “Meistersinger”---the one staged by Wagner’s
29-year-old great-granddaughter, featuring frontal nudity,
Wagner dancing in his underwear, and a bunch of master singers
with gigantic penises---well, they were “expressing rigidity.”
(Not as much as those master singers.)
According to the critic,
apparently, it’s all good!
Swed’s crabbed and disingenuous argument blames
everything from the Internet to the economy to “American
Idol’s” thumbs-up/down rating system for contemporary booing.
I’m surprised he left out Dick Cheney. He never once allowed
that a boo---accepted, uncontroversial behavior in European
concert halls---can be thoughtful, deliberate, and wholly
warranted. How else can you impress upon an artist, or
management, that you disapprove? A letter? Dismissed with a
shrug and a shredder. But boos, well, they can make headlines.
You're reading the proof here.
Me, I was having fun. I was gleefully relishing the
opportunity to publicly express my disdain for a $32 million
dollar operatic production (the entire “Ring” cycle’s projected
cost) that is pretentious, idiosyncratic, cluttered, gratuitous,
banal, ridiculous, crude, occasionally just stupid. Where the
characters look like assclowns from Timothy Leary’s rotting
mind. What was I supposed to do, applaud politely? Or make the
bold statement of. . .withholding my applause? We’ve been
had, folks, by L.A. Opera, and Achim Freyer, and I’m sorry to
say, the great Placido Domingo, who had the bad judgement to
hire Freyer. It is almost criminal---I mean this---that this
amount of money has been squandered on such
tomfoolery. Think what this cash might have done to help
south-central Los Angeles, for random example. Or to reinstate
music programs in public schools! Or to stage lesser operas. Or
to fight gangs. Or
to support The Rip Post!
Instead, it has been spent on indulging the crackpot
ego of a mountebank, forcing confused L.A. audiences and "Ring"
neophytes to consider the results as high art. A mountebank who,
in the wake of the controversy generated by my lone boo, took
the ultimate phoneybaloney artiste cop-out, saying in the
Washington Post, that he wants a spectator “to be active; he
has to yell, 'Boo,' 'Bravo,' get involved."
Achim “Chicken” Freyer. Save us from such poseurs.
I should, for the sake of credibility, note that I
am not alone in my assessment of Freyer’s “Ring,” which
returns with “Siegfried” and “Gotterdamerung” next year. Check
out all the
reader comments following Swed’s
articles in the Times. They often make for better music
criticism than the critic. Most
ache over Achim, and lustily endorse booing. Ah, but to Swed,
these people are more emissaries from the evil “blogosphere”
spouting “bile in the name of free expression.” And check out
other reviews of Freyer’s “Walkure” and “Rheingold.”
Carl Byron, for example, writes that the choice of Freyer for
the LAO “Ring” was “curious.”
“Rather than shedding new light on Wagner’s allegory
of greed and hubris,” Byron writes, “the former Brecht
meisterschuler instead served up a disjointed hotchpotch of
post-modern theatrical clichés that obscured the plot and
characters (literally, in some cases, due to bleak lighting
design) and also undermined the glorious performances of the
vocalists and orchestra.”
But that’s not the point. Even if the opera had been
effectively staged and unanimously praised, I would still have a
right to dislike aspects of it to the extent that I might choose
to boo. Close minded? I went into this Ring with high hopes,
despite photos from rehearsals that rated an orange alert from
the The Department of Bullshit Security. It looked like a Monty
But I never anticipated that something as Quixotic as
my solitary crowing would have had the slightest impact on
anything, let alone generate controversy. Swed’s latest ploy of
casting me, and the boo, as being from the cyber-cesspool, well,
that's a shocker. Has this society become so fawning that open
disapproval merits such denunciation? Apparently so!
But I am glad of it, and frankly, at this point, I
want to heartily encourage people to boo their lungs out.
No, not to boo unthinkingly, or witlessly, or cruelly. A
performer’s voice cracks, or a pianist’s joints ache---this
should only generate sympathy and polite applause. A conductor
takes the Beethoven Eroica at breakneck speed, finishing this
approximately 40-minute work in about 25 minutes (as I saw the
odious Franz Welser-Most conduct it years ago at the Pavilion,
theatrically swooning from aerobic exertion), hey, go ahead and
let ‘er rip (pardon the expression.) The night that Esa-Pekka
Salonen, who, yes, has indisputable great strengths, rendered
Beethoven’s 9th as sloppy Muzak, well, that merited a chorus of
hyenas. Lang Lang, who is all image and flash, and utterly
lacking in depth and real artistry, should be booed right off
every stage in the world. His parents raised him to be a performing monkey
his agent (or somebody) marketed him with the funny “Yo Yo
Ma”-like name, and he rakes in millions with every head toss and
piano-crushing fortissimo. Boooooooo!
And any time a
multi-millionaire Dodger dogs it at the Stadium, cut loose.
need more booing, especially here in L.A.., the
celebrity-licking land of the automatic standing ovation. Is
there any discernment left anywhere? Let’s have some intelligent
discord from the vocal cords. And how much intelligence, really,
does it take to see that, for instance, Robert Wilson’s Kabuki-izing
of LAO’s “Madame Butterfly” was affected, and totally at odds
with the story, and character of the music? Or that stuffing the
knights of “Parsifal” into futons and having them pose like
trees with lumbago (Wilson again) was artsiness at its fartsiest?
Yes, instead of all the
preening, snobby buffoons
braying in the obligatory Bravo Brigade, who work so hard to
out-bravo one another (“I understand how great this is more
than you do!”), L.A. needs a Bile Bunch.
Booers (not boors) of
the world, unite!
Is such a thing possible? Maybe so. Last week,
pianist Krystian Zimmerman denounced the USA from the stage
(a sort of boo from the artist---nice reversal!), prompting a
boos and obscenities from the perfumey Disney denizens. Heh!
And consider this: a very restrained and proper friend of mine
attended Salonen’s final concert, and found himself so affronted
by the pretentious and bizarre Peter Sellars staging, and
tampering with the text in Stravinksy’s “Oedipus,” that he
dropped me an e-mail saying he took a cue from my column, and
booed openly! Yes, there among the jewelry-rattling dowagers and
chest-swelling bravo barons, he cupped his hands and yowled.
Something he had never done before. Bravo! (Pardon the
expression.) I want to hear more such stories. (Send 'em in!
And come next LAO season
and Freyer's "Siegfried," and "Gotterdamerung,"
please don't leave me
to be the Lone Booer. I've shouldered the burden long enough.
Bragging that booing is a badge of honor?
In the era of “it’s all good” critic Mark Swed, you
RING COVERAGE. . .
commentaries of L.A. Opera's controversial staging of
Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen."
(Feb. 25, 2009)
Rense reviews "Das Rheingold," the first in the series of
The Lonely Booer
(Apr. 8, 2009)
Rense reviews "Die Walkure," the second in the "Ring" cycle.
Also, Rense reacts to L.A.Times music critic Mark Swed
noting the presence of a "lonely booer" letting loose at
the sight of director Achim Freyer. The "lonely booer"
was. . .Rense.
Boo For Swed (Apr. 8, 2009)
Rense comments in sidebar on Swed's assertion that
listening to Wagner might make you "want to keep company
The Lonely Booer
(May 1, 2009)
L.A. Times music critic Mark Swed boos back at Rense, and
Uber Alles (July 29, 2009)
Rense comments on L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich's motion to
quash a citywide "Ring" Festival on the basis that
Wagner was an anti-Semite.
Siggy Stardust (Oct. 5, 2009)
Rense Reviews L.A. Opera's "Siegfried."
Rense Rebuts L.A. Times's Mark Swed on "Siegfried"
(Oct. 5, 2009)
Rense counters Swed's cheerleading for absurd Achim
BACK TO PAGE ONE
© 2002-09 Rip Rense. All rights reserved.